The Continued Value of a College Degree

Higher Education

By Patrick Kerns

Over the past few years, there has been much in the news about the rising cost of higher education and recent graduates struggling to pay down significant student loan balances.  While these stories grab headlines, the truth may be more than a few stories of students who are struggling as a result of their college experience.

A recently released study by the College Board titled Education Pays 2016, The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society pushes back on some of these recent headlines with some data about the continued value of higher education, not only in terms of pay for graduates, but also other societal benefits.

The study provides many metrics on pay, such those who had earned at least a bachelor’s degree were on average earning more than $24,600 than counterparts who had only a high school diploma.  As a result, those with a college degree contribute an additional $6,900 in taxes annually.

Those who have completed a traditional four-year degree can expect by age 34 to have outearned those who attained only a high school degree after accounting for lost wages while attaining the degree and the cost of education.  Over their lifetime, those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to cumulatively outearn a high school graduate by approximately $400,000, or almost one-third of their lifetime earnings.

Some other interesting statistics included that college graduates are more likely to be civic-minded, with 45% of 25 to 44 year-olds voting in elections, and 39% of them volunteering, in some capacity.

Colleges and universities need to continue to develop a consistent message of the value (both monetary and societal) that a bachelor’s degree provides, as the study demonstrates.  Each institution will need to develop a message that demonstrates the value of its degrees, success stories and other benefits that it provides to the community and beyond. 

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